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Staying Healthy - A Guide for Remote Workers

Working from home often conjures images of sleeping in, working in PJs and avoiding the dreaded commute. While this is partially true (long live PJs!), remote work can have some drawbacks.

The popular perception is that working from home can create more balance, but remote also brings its own challenges, like blurring the lines between work and personal time.

So, how do we keep it together while working remotely?

Here are four pieces of knowledge to help you find your way.

Routine is more critical than ever.

If you think about the one thing you get consistently from working in an office, it's routine. You arrive at a specific time, take your lunch at a specific time, head home around the same time every day, and usually spend a certain amount of time in traffic. It might get boring, but it's consistent. Remote workers have the flexibility and freedom to run their day any way they want, which is great in theory, but a lack of routine can cause work to be delayed or excessive. Start by getting up at the same time each day,  avoid looking at devices and instead schedule time in for walks or activities that get you away from the screen. The key is to set yourself up to be productive and proactive throughout the day, so challenge yourself with things like checking email the minute you wake up to avoid being thrown into a flurry. If your company is flexible about the hours you work, determine when you're most productive and if you're required to perform a 9-5 workday, be sure to plan your downtime when you'll enjoy it most. 

Keep on moving

In recent years, there has been a natural movement to quash the BIC (bum in chair) mentality of the workday. Working from home allows you to get up and move around when you want, without anyone looking over your shoulder. This does require some discipline from you, however. Schedule regular breaks during the day to step outside, go for a short walk or stretch. And try to plan for regular exercise a few times a week. If you used to go to the gym on the way to work, schedule a different activity at that time and stick to it. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, explains that creating habits is about routine and structure, not willpower. He suggests creating "micro-habits," like leaving your workout clothes and running shoes beside your bed, to remind you in the morning that your day starts with a run. Whether you prefer to walk the dog every morning or ride your bike along city trails, make sure you are moving for your physical and mental health. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel better and improve your mood. It also gives you more energy and can help clear your head when the day's stresses build up. 

Feed your soul

We all know well enough by now that fresh foods provide considerably more nutrition than packaged processed foods. Keep your fridge stocked with easy-to-reach fruits and veggies to snack on and minimize the amount of packaged foods in your cupboards. We know all too well that these are the ones that call to us when we're stressed, hungry and distracted. Keeping regular mealtimes for consuming foods is an effective way to maintain a healthy diet as well. While it's nice to have the flexibility to eat when you want, keeping regular meal times allows your body to stay nourished and energy levels consistent all day. It's not about what time you eat each day but about keeping a regular schedule. Breakfast at 11am and lunch at 3pm? So be it if that works for you, but be consistent and choose healthy foods.

Step Away

Perhaps even more critical than keeping regular work hours is taking time to step away from your "office" to make time for yourself and your family. A study of remote workers in 2019, before the pandemic was even a blip on the radar, showed the most prominent challenges these employees faced was unplugging after work. When your office is in the home, it's easy to get lost in your work because there's no transition from the workday to home life. There's no commute or time alone in which to switch gears and wind down. Schedule time at the end of the day to engage in an activity that allows you to make that transition - a walk around the block or a few minutes to stretch, turn off the laptop and put away papers and pens. Keep the phone out of reach while you eat dinner, and avoid logging back on in the evening.

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